Nestled deep into the woods along the North Shore is one of Minnesota’s best-kept secrets — until now, I guess. The Tettegouche State Park cabins offer an incredible winter adventure to anyone with a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes.
I first heard about the cabins about five years ago talking to a friend who had been going there with his family since he was a kid. He talked about skiing in to a little one-room cabin, heated by wood stove and spending long weekends playing cards and taking in impeccable nature. It sounded pretty dang good to me.
Bri and I had talked about heading up there pretty much since we had started dating. We finally made it up for a night and it was everything I had imagined.
I hopped online in December and figured I’d better get our reservation in early to get a cabin. To my surprise, every weekend through April was completely booked up already. And a ton of weeknights, too. Maybe it wasn’t one of Minnesota’s best-kept secrets.
There was one Sunday night available in February. I booked it. We figured that we would get a good amount of skiing in by then to prepare for our little adventure — by February, we’d be old pros. That didn’t quite happen. We maybe skied twice before the trip. Still, we were excited to get out and enjoy winter at its best.
Tettegouche State Park has four cabins, a shower building and a day lodge. They’re tucked into the woods on the shore of Mic Mac lake 1.7 miles from a little service road in Silver Bay, Minnesota. And they’re only accessible by foot, bike, ski or snowshoe.
You have to bring in everything you need for your whole stay. And I figured for our one night stay, we would need enough rations to feed a boy scout troop for a week. Like a boy scout, I live by the motto, “Always be prepared.” I may have over-packed.
An entire bag of oranges, pasta, pasta sauce, tuna, boxes of granola bars, trail mix, Gatorades — if someone found my bag, it may have been assumed that I was a doomsday prepper with a soft spot for oranges. My backpack was full. And very heavy.
After a beautiful drive from the Twin Cities, we arrived at the trailhead in the early afternoon. We strapped on our skis, cinched our bags and started up the trail. The first mile or so of the trail is uphill. Thanks to my overloaded bag, it felt really steep and like it may never end.
I was using skate skis. With every side-to-side move I made, my bag would shift and just about pull me over. At one point I succumbed to the bag and crashed to the ground with the grace of a hippo.
As every semi-regular cross-country skier knows, you generate a lot of heat when you ski. That means that you may feel a little chilly at the start, but as you start skiing, you’ll heat right up. I know this and somehow manage to overdress every time I go skiing.
By the time we reached the peak of the incline about a mile in, the air was crisp, clear and beautiful. I was hot and miserable. Did I mention that my bag was over packed?
As we started down the back half of the trail, my spirits picked up and I was excited to be deep in the woods on a beautiful winter day.
We arrived at Cabin D and it was even more picturesque than I had imagined. It looked like we had gone back in time and landed in a small logging camp. The one-room cabin had a bed, table, small kitchen and a woodstove with a pile of wood waiting for us. It was perfect.
It was chilly and just about to get dark, so we got the fire rolling immediately. The cabin has electricity, but no toilet or running water. There’s an outhouse a short walk away and the state park provides a few jugs of water that are ready for you in the cabin. There’s also a heated shower-house with bathrooms, too, but we didn’t figure that out until we left.
As the fire heated up the cabin, Bri and I walked down to the lake and checked out the camp. The lake was beautiful and everything was quiet. Really, really quiet.
If you’re into playing cards, reading, playing games or just sitting by the fire and chatting, this is the perfect place for you. We played cribbage, read aloud from a David Sedaris book, talked and laughed a lot. A simple and perfect little getaway.
One night was definitely too short, but we made the most of it. When we woke up in the morning, we took off on one of the other trails that meandered through a bog and into the woods around Mic Mac lake. Skiing under the winter sun was the perfect way to start off the day. It would be hard to leave so soon.
Still, we had to go back to the cities. So we enjoyed the morning with some tea, another game of cribbage and I packed up my overly packed bag once again. The trip out was much easier than the trip in for me. Bri on the other hand, had some issues with her skis and had a tough go of it on the way out. But we eventually made it out back down to the little service road.
We set off back to the cities and started planning our next trip back to beautiful Tettegouche.